A Treatise on Grilling, Part 5
What's the matter, Colonel Sanders? Chicken!? Ah the chicken. It seems like almost every part of this bird is used in one form or another, excluding the head and some of the digestive tract. I say "some," because I know people who eat the gizzards and livers. In fact, true Dirty Rice is "dirtied" by using chicken gizzards.
For those of you who don't know, a gizzard is a part of the digestive system that birds have to help eating hard foods. The chicken ingests small pebbles or rocks that go into the gizzard which help the bird grind up hard things like corn, seed, or tough to digest plants.
In America, we typically eat 5 major part of the common hen: the breast, the wing, the leg, the thigh, and sometimes the neck. People have been known to eat chicken feet, but that's just freaky. The liver could be included here, but it's not really a major part. Imagine how many chickens must die for one plate of fried chicken livers to be eaten. Murder most fowl ...
If you are an average American, you are most likely grilling or barbequing chicken breasts, with or without bones. I like the boneless, skinless kind, but the whole breast with bones sometimes is more fun to eat. Lots more to do and pick off.
But when it comes time to bring the chicken to the holy fires, there are a few things that you need to know. And this applies to nearly the whole bird.
1. Chicken is not very fatty. That is, when you buy chicken breasts or other parts, most of it is the meat, bone, and tendons. You must be careful when grilling, because any fat that does exist in the chicken parts could render out, leaving a dry piece of meat. If you're grilling whole chicken breasts with skin on, you may not have to be so careful, as the skin helps to keep moisture and juice in as well as baste it from the outside in.
2. Chicken has a very small edge between done and overcooked. I'm sure you've had overcooked chicken before. It's tough and gamey. Not appetizing at all. Unfortunately, I don't have a tip for dealing with this issue; it just takes experience with the bird and a relationship with your grill.
3. For boneless skinless breasts, grill them direclty over the fire for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until you have those nice gril marks. Then remove them from direct to indirect and continue to cook until done.
4. Believe it or not, it is a GREAT idea to marinate/brine chicken before grilling. I like to do this maybe an hour before bringing it to the holy fires. In my opinion, it needs some sort of salty/sour marinade of some kind. A good idea for this is italian dressing. Simple and easy. If you don't want to do a marinade, be sure to salt the chicken before grilling. If you are using a marinade with an acidic element, be careful not to marinade more than overnight. Aftar a time, the acid starts to break dow the chicken.